AAPA pledges to partner governments in rebuilding global air travel

“WE do see light at the end of the tunnel and more and more governments are coming up with roadmaps to reopen their borders and also understanding the importance of sustainability for the airlines,” said Subhas Menon, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA).

He was voicing the optimism of the association’s member airlines, despite continuing weak international air passenger demand for the region’s carriers, at a media briefing on the 65th AAPA Assembly of Presidents held virtually on November 12.

In the declaration issued at the end of the assembly the airlines reiterated their commitment to work with governments and industry partners to achieve the goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and to facilitate the timely resumption of international air travel by 2022.

AAPA announced the goal of net zero emissions by 2050 in September, which is a more ambitious target that surpasses the existing industry commitment to halving carbon emissions by 2050.

According to Menon, the goal could be achieved through a combination of technology, operational efficiency improvements, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and a global market-based measure, namely the ICAO Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

Subhas Menon outlining the association’s goal of achieving net zero emissions at the virtual media conference.

He acknowledged that although the aviation
industry is committed to reducing its carbon footprint “in a responsible manner”,
there are challenges to overcome.

“Facilities for producing SAF are severely lacking in Asia Pacific (APAC) compared to other regions. Taxes, onerous regulations and other penalties would only increase the cost of travel without any benefit to the environment. Conversely, government incentives and investment would contribute to the effective development of sustainable fuels and new energy sources to bolster the industry’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

He called on governments to fully participate in CORSIA and support its global implementation as the single most effective measure for addressing emissions in international aviation. “This will enable the airline industry to continue growing in a sustainable manner, in line with the commitment to net zero emissions.”

State of the aviation industry

While there are indications the global economy is rebounding from its deepest plunge in 2020 2021, with an expected modest growth of 6% in 2022, and air travel demand is underway, international passenger volumes across APAC however remain deeply depressed.

Menon attributed “very stringent travel restrictions” in the region to the low air travel demand – at just  6% of what it was in 2019 compared to the world average of 40%.

Although strong air cargo demand provides some financial relief to the airlines,  accounting for a third of their total revenue, it does not mitigate the losses that they are suffering from as a result of very poor demand on the passenger side, Menon said.

Aviation is a very important activity for APAC and is an essential means of transportation and there are many livelihoods that are dependent on the industry, he added.

The air transport sector accounts for US$944 billion of APAC GDP, and more than 50% of the 88 million employed in the industry globally are from the region. As APAC lags behind other countries in the reopening of borders and easing of restrictions on air travel , the social and economic impact of the pandemic is felt more deeply in the region than elsewhere stressed Menon.

“But of course, we are optimistic as governments will begin to prioritise aviation, as well as the return to connectivity and, hopefully, we will begin to see some changes in the situation and improvement for the airlines and their finances.”

Touching on vaccinations, which is leading
the way to the reopening of borders, Menon said: “What is most encouraging is
the pickup rate in the vaccination levels across the globe, with the exception
of Africa, which is still lagging behind. APAC is now very close to other
regions of the world, and in some places are really exceeding Europe in
America.

“With more or close to half of the world population is already been vaccinated with at least one dose so you could say there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Restarting aviation

Noting that prolonged border closures have
resulted in unprecedented damage particularly to the travel and tourism
sectors, the Assembly of Presidents called on governments to restore global
connectivity and reopen borders swiftly to reunite families, as well as revive
trade and commerce.

AAPA also urged governments to collaborate with industry stakeholders to rebuild travel confidence through measures that include streamlining protocols and practices for international air travel, and adopting interoperable digital applications to reduce delays, congestion and inconvenience to travellers

”We support an inclusive approach towards
international air travel that allows for vaccinated, recovered and
non-vaccinated passengers to travel, subject to objective risk-based health measures.
These will greatly reduce complexity and confusion for travellers,” it added.

These initiatives will pave the way for a smooth and sustained recovery of the APAC travel and tourism industry while Covid is endemic.

“The outlook for aviation is improving as governments are determined to reopen their economies. AAPA airlines remain fully committed to partnering with governments and industry stakeholders on the shared mission of restoring global connectivity and building a future for aviation that is resilient, sustainable, safe and secure,” Menon concluded.

Featured image credit: Nicolas-Jooris Ancion/Getty Images